Seven Ways to Have More Fun at an Auction

I love going to live auctions! I will sit all day, even if I’m not intending to buy anything, just for the thrill of listening to the auctioneer and learning a bit of history at the same time. Whether they are selling antiques or cars, I am an auction addict.

I also love to watch people. It’s fun to see who is bidding inconspicuously, with a head nod or a wink. The bidder who is holding their hand up for an eternity because no matter what the item is going to be theirs. The people who wait until the last second to jump in on the bid either because they suddenly decided they need the item because everyone else is bidding or they just realized what was being auctioned. Then there is the person who is bidding just to make the price increase but has no interest in buying the item (you’ve seen Storage Wars, right?).

Something that seems to happen at almost every single auction I attend are little mistakes. Sometimes humorous, sometimes sad, and some that I have made myself. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and totally forget to stay focused.  

Here are seven ways you can make your auction experience successful.

  1. Do your research! Live auctions have a time where you can preview the items before they go up for bid. It may be days or just hours before the auction begins. Don’t be afraid to inspect thoroughly everything you intend to bid on. Feel the edges of the plates with your fingers for any chips, turn the item over and make sure it is what the auction catalog says it is (auction staff sometimes make mistakes), take a pocket magnifier and small black light with you to inspect for damage. The last thing you want to do is purchase something that isn’t in the condition you expected and to pay top dollar for it!
  2. Don’t wave to anyone during an auction! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone waving to a friend across a room or convention center in the middle of an auction only to have their hand up counted as a bid. A good friend of ours did this at a car auction and almost became the owner of a $45,000 car. Keep your hands down unless you are bidding.
  3. Bring cash and a planned budget. If you are impulsive and bid on anything and everything, your best defense is to leave the credit cards and checkbooks at home and only bring cash. I can tell you that I have bought way more than I ever intended to at several auctions because it was so much fun! The excitement builds and every item that is brought to the block has a lot of bidders and you don’t want to be left out.
  4. Bring snacks and drinks. I always pack a sandwich and bring several beverages with me when I head out to an auction. There is nothing worse than having your stomach growl and not wanting to leave to get something to eat when the auction is going on for fear of missing a deal. Don’t drink too much though otherwise you’ll be headed towards the restroom often potentially missing the deal of a lifetime.
  5. Leave the pets and kids at home. Auctions aren’t fun for little ones and pets. It’s loud, the items may be fragile and there are a lot of people around who aren’t there to do anything but bid. If your dog is barking or even worse relieving themselves on merchandise you’re going to create a bad experience for all. Kid's are fast and I've seen a little one grab the side of a table and bring several glass items crashing to the ground. I've also seen a child get their hands on an expensive Steiff Stuffed Bear and not want to give it back to the auction staff.
  6. Bring boxes and packing materials to bring your new-found treasures home. I always bring plastic tubs and bubble wrap to auctions since very few of the auctions I’ve attended had any way to safely wrap my items.
  7. Talk to the other people who are there and ask questions. You will meet some great people (some crabby one’s too) and may make some new friends. One of the people who has taught me about fine antiques is a man I met at an auction. He is in his 80’s, doesn’t use a computer and so knowledgeable about fine crystal and silver because this is what he has done his whole life. He knows the history of the companies, the value of the items and loves to share his knowledge.

Have fun when go to auctions and remember, you don’t have to buy everything!

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